Lately, I’ve had a word stuck in my head. It’s nothing unusual – I’m often contemplating a word, or a message of some sort. Out of the blue, it just appears on my plate – something for me to chew on. It can be a Bible verse, a quote or just a persistent thought. It can last for days, weeks, even months.
For instance, for quite a while this year, it was all about the fruit of the Spirit – from Galatians 5:22-23. I already knew that verse well. I can rattle those fruits off no problem: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. See, no problem; I know them all. I don’t even have to look.
But the question I kept getting was, do you really know them? Do you know them deeply? Are you living them out, are you walking in step with the Spirit? Does He have His way in you? The proof is in these attributes.
Then I find myself on a quest: comparing translations, contemplating each word, researching and searching my heart – asking God to search me and to show me what He finds. Then He shows me – in a number of different scenarios – often in traffic, when I’m stuck behind someone going really slow or when I have to stop for every light – and I realize, I still have a ways to go in honing those attributes. It’s one thing to be able to rattle off some words in your sleep, and a whole other thing to live them out every waking moment of the week.
As much as I still contemplate the fruit of the Spirit, I’ve had other words since then. Recently, it’s the word ‘intention’. As I study the word ‘intention’ though, I wonder if the word ‘purpose’ is more apropos.
For example, I’m totally stuck on chapter twelve of the book I’m writing. I’m stuck there for a few reasons: straight up procrastination, it’s hard work, it can be painful at times, and I’m busy doing other things. While I’ve been busy doing other things, I’ve been asking myself what my intentions are … or purpose. I ask myself why I am writing this book. Am I doing it to be praised, for esteem? Or am I doing it to obey and glorify Him? It’s definitely not for the money. FYI: publishing a book actually costs a lot of money and the probability of making it big in this industry is less likely than being struck by lightning.
Writing this book might be a good idea, but is it a God idea? I’m asking myself and God that about everything lately. I just want to be fulfilling His plans, although I know I don’t get it right all the time, I do rely on Him to guide me. My heart’s desire is to stay in step with Him – to abide. I sometimes call it being in the “bullseye”. There are roads paved with good intentions and then there are those paved with God intentions. The latter is the road that leads to His joy, contentment and peace … and of course obeying them is key.
Another word of late has been ‘listen’. With ‘listen’ comes slow down, be quiet, stop for a minute.
One morning a couple of weeks ago, I got up feeling low, like dread had entered without knocking. I had been injured at work a few days before, which exacerbated a previous work injury from a year ago. I know, this Education Assistant job sounds dangerous doesn’t it? It can be. Plus, my job situation was changing, and I had a big decision to make (in hindsight it wasn’t that big but for a few days, it felt huge). But much more than all that, I had two friends on my mind – one in hospice, the other recently home from the hospital, very ill – fighting with all her might and hoping for a miracle.
I came downstairs to let the dog out and get things started. I stopped, stood still for a minute and had a little conversation with my soul. I know, weird right? Have you ever had words with your soul? Mine went something like this, “Oh my soul, why are you so low? Don’t lose hope, don’t lose hope! Just praise the Lord, soul. There are a million things to praise Him for.”
A wooden sign that says “Be Hopeful” caught my eye. It’s a sign I usually have elsewhere but put there a week earlier when I was decorating for the birthday party, we had for this fighter friend I mentioned – Shonia (pronounced Shauna). Then I thought to check my Bible app for the verse of the day (I usually check it before I get out of bed). This is what is said:
“Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Saviour and my God.” Psalm 42:5 (NIV)
I thought, wow! That sounds very familiar. God heard me and showed me I’m not alone. The Psalmist and all of us are in the same boat, sometimes just trying to stay afloat, hoping our souls respond to the occasional lament/pep talk. I didn’t necessarily feel that much better but a strong reminder that God knows all about it brought some relief.
I just kept thinking of Shonia in so many ways: 1) Does it bring her relief that God knows all about it when she’s injecting a hand full of needles every three hours into her legs? 2) How futile my little troubles are in light of Shonia’s battle, and how humbling it is knowing God cares about both. 3) Could Shonia have any idea how her true grit and persistence have been a huge source of inspiration to me and so many of us? My sister, Elanna and I discuss it after every visit, we are always like, “Wow, she’s amazing!” Elanna calls her a soldier.
All the tests, all the needles, the surgeries, ports, tubes, chemo, hospital stays, procedures, exhaustion, nausea, pain, dashed dreams, the pleas for mercy and healing. I’m sure Shonia could add many more words to this list, but I think we all get the idea.
We are flabbergasted by her strength and determination, her staying power, how she’s done some trips of late having to find in advance a nearby hospital for weekly intravenous. Most of us would have thrown in the towel by now. Instead, Shonia goes away for the weekend with a friend even though she has to get up every three hours to administer her meds. As much as possible, she’s not letting it stop her from living her life to the fullest. What she’s been through is unimaginable for most, but she just keeps going – showing us what perseverance, a positive attitude and faith can do.
‘Faith’, now there’s a good word. It means nothing though if not exercised. Regarding Shonia’s cancer, I sometimes think it’s just too big. But then I say, “Come on faith, let’s go! Get those knees up higher. There’s always hope! With God all things are possible; He is a God of endless resources – of countless miracles!” Shonia says she received a miracle regarding her health many years ago (she is actually in a medical journal) and she is confident she could be granted one again.
Our word for Shonia is ‘hope’. Another is ‘Good News’. During her last hospital stay, there came a day where the bad news kept piling up. Looking a little defeated, when asked how we could pray, she said she could really use some good news. Over the course of the next few days, as I prayed for good news, I just kept thinking about the everlasting, never changing, Good News—Jesus Christ. Good news comes and goes in our lives, but there is Good News that surpasses everything.
With the Christmas season now upon us, and this talk of Good News, I hear the little voice of Linus Van Pelt responding to Charlie Brown’s bemoan, “Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?” Linus recites Luke 2:8-12, part of which says, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good news of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord…”
Well, I’ve finally finished chapter twelve. It’s such a relief. Even though this book is taking so long, I try to focus on how far I’ve come. Way back in chapter two, I wrote all about ‘hope’. Hope was the word Mike and I got a lot and chewed on and pondered and embraced throughout our toughest days. It’s still one of my favourites.
In that hope chapter, I explain that even though I still hope for a cure for ALS (of course) and healing for others’ illnesses and many many things, my hope is so much more than an expectation in something; it’s a confident expectation and assured certainty in Someone.
So, let us take this from the Psalmist: Put your hope in God and praise Him!
From Linus (actually the apostle Luke): Fear not, Good News of Great Joy was born – a Saviour which is Jesus. That’s what Christmas is all about.
From Shonia: Live every day to the fullest. Never give up. Believe in the power of prayer and the possibility of a miracle!
From me: There are roads paved with good intentions and roads paved with God intentions, seek Him with all your heart and He will direct your paths.
Also: Please pray for Shonia!
Shonia with her husband Steve and daughters Maiya and Payge
Like Chapter twelve, this blog post has taken me a while. My dad and my husband Chris where in Malawi Africa when I started it and have since returned having had three more wells drilled there. That is 44 wells now under Project Wellness’ belt. Chris and dad were so honoured to have our local Member of Parliament, Dan Ruimy and his assistant Khalida along with them. They said it was a lot of fun and hope they join them again sometime. I’m getting a little antsy to go soon again myself. I’ll be asking the Lord if that’s a God intention, and if so, I’m sure I’ll be going.
I end with a verse my dad quoted the other day. He said it was one of the first he committed to memory. Considering my writing – my next book and my blog (contemplating the future direction of my blog), and missionary work (at home and possibly abroad) this verse spoke to me. It’s a verse for all of us to ponder. Let’s chew on this: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.” Philemon 1:6
PS – Elanna and I went for dinner with Shonia tonight and we had a wonderful time. It’s a humbling and lifting experience being in her presence. Elanna and I walked away like always, amazed … and I say to my soul, “Stay hopeful and praise God!”
At Maiya’s grad this past spring.
Blessings during this Christmas season every one!